The three Red Cross workers kidnapped 17 days ago on Jolo were actually grabbed by criminals (a gang led by a former hail guard), and then quickly sold to Abu Sayyaf, which then asked for a $5 million ransom. Apparently the police and military were quick to close in on the original kidnappers, leading to selling the captives to the terrorists. Abu Sayyaf is actually one of the largest criminal organizations in the south, and actually was founded by members of MILF (the larger Islamic separatist organization) who went rogue (became bandits) and were expelled. They then adopted radical Islam (in the form of an alleged alliance with al Qaeda) as a cover for their criminal activities. They talk the talk, but basically they steal, and terrorize like any other criminal gang would to prevent people from informing on them.
Faced with government refusal to pay ransom for the three kidnapped Red Cross officials, Abu Sayyaf has come up with a clever ploy to get around this. Now Abu Sayyaf demands that the government fund "education and development projects" in the Moslem south, in return for the captives. Apparently, this would provide a way for the government to pay a ransom, without violating its "no ransom" policy. This would work by transferring large amounts of money to a local (to the kidnappers) government, and most of this would then be transferred to the kidnappers. Enough would stay with the government officials to pay them off, and to start some window dressing projects to provide media photo opportunities that the non-existent "education and development projects" actually started.
A police intelligence center was opened in the south, to assist in dealing with Islamic terrorism and crime (which has always been higher down there) in general. Australia contributed money and technical advice for the project. The counter-terror operations in the south continue to be successful, despite the high-profile kidnappings on Jolo and Basilan. What is little discussed is that Jolo and Basilan islands have been lawless, corrupt and unruly for centuries. These days, the disorder is blamed on Islamic radicalism. But the historical fact is that the tribes in the south have always been more disorderly than those in the rest of the Philippines. Religion plays a part in that, but most of it is cultural. The southern tribes didn't get along with each other either, despite sharing the same religion. Local tribal and clan wars have been part of life down south for as long as anyone can remember.
The increase of NPA (communist rebels) attacks on mining, and other rural businesses last year, has led to the government expanding the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit). This is a force of 60,000 part time soldiers that are trained and supervised by the army, and used to guard villages against rebels (especially NPA) and bandits. The new program will allow companies in remote areas to pay for existing, or newly recruited CAFGU members to help guard mines and other industrial sites in remote areas. In many cases, the CAFGU members will be employees of these facilities. This will address the eagerness of workers, in these economically depressed areas, to defend their jobs (and get paid for it). The army has to provide personnel to supervise the training, and later performance of new CAFGU units. But these part time forces are expected to halt the spread of extortion in the south as well, where the MILF has been copying the NPA, and demanding payoffs from large companies, in order to halt MILF attacks.
Major drug gangs have announced that they have offered to pay some $200,000 each for the murder of the two top anti-drug police commanders.
January 27, 2009: The government is sticking to its "no ransom" policy in the case of three kidnapped teachers being held on Basilan island. Abu Sayyaf claims to hold the teachers, and the government knows that if they pay, this will encourage more kidnappings.
January 26, 2009: A hundred kilometers south of the capital, four men attempted to kidnap two South Korean businessmen, but the four kidnappers ran the victims car into a canal during the pre-dawn getaway, and instead robbed their victims and drove away. Police were soon alerted and caught up with the kidnappers, killing two and capturing one.
January 23, 2009: Islamic terrorists kidnapped three school teachers in the south and have taken them to Basilan island. The terrorists are demanding ransom of $127,000.